Personal Experiences And Online Teaching
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What I Learned From My First Online Course

I had one year of in-classroom teaching under my belt, and I was ready to embark on teaching an online class. I did not know what to expect or how difficult it would be. One important question that remained on my mind was how I would be able to connect with my students. It is difficult to establish connections online, and I learned from teaching face to face in a classroom that connection is key to student engagement. After my first semester teaching an online Introduction to Communications course with Post University, I learned how to approach student learning that works for their individual capabilities. My online students taught me that their personal experiences can be an apparatus for edification. Through their personal experiences, I was able to identify the bigger picture of what that they encompass, and how they can learn from self-reflection.

The Importance Of Personal Experiences

Students share their personal experiences even when it isn’t very similar to the assignment prompt. A part of Post University’s online Introduction to Communications course includes discussion board posts. Students are required to answer a prompt that connects to the unit topic and then respond to each other’s posts. This is where students feel comfortable sharing their personal life, especially events that have negatively affected them. For example, Unit 1 is a general overview of communication, why communication is important and how our perceptions of each other affect the way we communicate. The Unit 1 Discussion Board prompt asked students to reflect on a past event where they experienced a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. This concept explains how our negative beliefs are consistent with our negative future actions. One student shared a story about losing her child, and how this prevented an open discussion about death and loss with her current children.

She stated, “I have never discussed my son Arion passing away because I thought my little people were too young but I did have a commemorative box with pictures of him once my kids got older I could explain what had happened.” Her youngest child approached her about another child that was spiritually present. This experience had taught her not to stereotype children as fragile and innocent and that children can be open to communication about emotionally challenging topics such as death. This student’s example demonstrates that educators can work with what students provide. I learned how to delicately respond and best help the student. I responded with a positive affirmation of their work, and I encouraged the student to make a stronger connection between her negative attitude and the self-fulfilling prophecy concept. I asked her to explain how their disapproval of sharing past history affected how she interacted with her children in the present. This demonstrates how I took what the student expressed and elevated it. Sometimes students are unable to make connections but reveal information that makes it easier for the instructor to help them. I pointed out how this is important to pay attention to. I take the information that they express and look for connections to the course unit topic.

This student’s example of stereotypes connects to the Unit 1 lesson, which focuses on how perception affects communication: stereotypes, personal constructs, prototypes, and identity scripts. The student explained how she held a stereotype about children. While the student didn’t go into detail about how perceiving children as innocent is a stereotype, I encouraged the student to explain how they can look at their personal experience and find a connection to how perception influences communication. The student expressed how she believed children should be shielded from adult conversations. I pointed out how this can be the link between the concept and the example. I instructed the student to explain what a stereotype is by using the course textbook definition, then explain how their personal experience exemplifies the unit concept description. This can be accomplished through the details of the story expressed and how they represent aspects of the concept. Her stereotype of children is that they are innocent, and she exemplifies this by shielding her children from the darker aspects of life. The student states, “I knew exactly who he was talking about and my heart instantly broke; how do I even explain this to him?” Most students write about how they negatively feel, which involves self-referential questions and doubts. This student doubted how she could explain such a complicated topic to her children. I took the student’s doubts and turned them into a life lesson. I explained how this student’s perception had a strong influence on the way she communicated with her children, and that they need to be more conscientious about the way they communicate with others. It is incredibly helpful to demonstrate to students life lessons from their academic work, even if they didn’t fully capture the main concept of the chapter. This helps me remind them what they can take away from this.

How My Online Students Taught Me

Students may grasp the main concepts of the unit, but if there is perceived doubt that they are not fully comprehending abstract ideas, then I try to show an alternative learning method. I take what students reveal and I explain how there is a deep meaning to it. Even if students may not have the strongest academic rigor, they are open to feedback from their instructors. I observed how students can learn valuable life-enhancing information that they could retain indefinitely. In keeping with the previous example, this student learned how their child disproved her stereotype about children. I explained to the student that she learned how to communicate with her children about their family’s past. If she believes that her child had communicated with the deceased child, then she can learn how to communicate with her child about what he sees, experiences and understands. Ultimately, there is value in communication with family, past and present so that children can know their family history. I explain to the student something of value, a life lesson, which demonstrates that the student can still retain valuable information from the course.

While it may appear like a fruitful teacher-student relationship, I may have felt cynical about students not reaching their highest potential or not matching my expectations. I learned to approach students with openness and flexibility. Yes, it can be frustrating that student’s grammar or knowledge is not up to standards, but this does not mean that students are not learning anything. Student’s writing skills improve over time, and they can retain life lessons from their instructors, which is accomplished through personal experiences, identifying the big picture, and encouraging them to see the meaning in their lives.

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